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12 January 2011

We've moved

Regular visitors, if there are any, will probably have noticed that we haven't been using this blog much recently. That's because we've moved to: http://www.nujnewmedia.org.uk, come and visit our new home.

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06 March 2010

Digital Economy Bill

Prince of Darkness' Digital Economy Bill likely to be pushed through before election
Senior industry figures expect controversial measures against illegal filesharing to become law before general election

Protests greet new Digital Economy Bill amendment
ISPs, digital rights groups and Liberal Democrat supporters cry foul
Rosalie Marshall 0- V3.co.uk, 05 Mar 2010
The Digital Economy Bill has created yet another storm of protest after the proposed legislation gained a further controversial amendment in the House of Lords this week.
Amendment 120A would give copyright holders the power to pressure internet service providers (ISPs) into restricting certain web sites. If the ISP fails to cut off the internet access, the copyright holder can apply to the courts to force the ISP to comply. The ISP would then be liable for legal costs.
The amendment has been proposed to replace the already contentious Clause 17, which is supported by the Labour Party and would give future ministers the power to introduce new rules without going through the parliamentary process.
Protestors against the clause include Google, Facebook and Yahoo, all of which argue that the powers could be used to introduce additional technical measures to monitor the internet, which would impose unnecessary costs for ISPs and discourage innovation on the web...................

29 November 2009

Nick Davies - Bad News: What's Wrong with the Press

New ideas for a responsible press

by Paul Breeden & Christina Zaba
Nick Davies: Keynote speaker at the 2009 NUJ Benn Lecture (Photo by Simon Chapman)

Nick Davies: Keynote speaker at Bristol's 2009 NUJ Benn Lecture (Photo by Simon Chapman)

NEW ways to regulate the British press have been suggested following a talk by Nick Davies, the renowned journalist and media commentator, at a packed event organised by Bristol NUJ.

Delivering the fourth annual Benn Lecture, now one of the most important events on the Bristol media calendar, Nick Davies called for a genuinely independent body which will take real action when newspapers publish untrue or damaging stories.

You can listen to a 1hr 45min podcast of the lecture which includes question and answer session here.

Drawing heavily on his much-praised 2008 book Flat Earth News, which documents the decline of journalistic standards, he said the current regulator, the Press Complaints Commission, is failing the public – partly because it is run by the newspaper industry.

“The PCC have proved in spades that you cannot trust the press to regulate itself,” he told an enthusiastic audience of journalists, students and people interested in the media gathered at the Arnolfini in Bristol.

“For the first time in history, we now have a press which harvests people’s private lives in order to sell stories. If we run a story that’s false and damaging, a victim has three courses of action: to write to the editor, sue for libel, or complain to the PCC.

“Letters to the editor are hardly ever published, and libel is a rich man’s law.

“That leaves the Press Complaints Commission, where in ten years 28,000 complaints have been made.

“More than 90 per cent of those complaints were rejected outright on technicalities. Of the 10 per cent which got over the hurdles, only 0.69 per cent were upheld.

“The PCC is structurally corrupt.”

Nick went on to give examples of ‘extraordinary levels of cruelty’ in certain high-profile stories such as those of Max Mosley and Madeleine McCann.

“Journalists will crash over the line in pursuit of a story, and unchecked second-hand material, whether it’s true or not, gets recycled globally within a few days,” he said. “The logic of commercialism has taken over from the logic of journalism.

“If you talk to journalists, they say they believe in a free press. In current circumstances, that’s a bit like a rapist saying he believes in free love.”

Ideas emerging from the discussion which followed Nick’s lecture included the introduction of a new regulator along the lines of Ofcom, which supervises broadcasters with a strict regime demanding balance and accuracy........


24 July 2009

Annie Machon talks about intelligence service interference in the media

Annie Machon talks about MI5 recruitment; 'Media Operations' by military intelligence; her ex-partner David Shayler's mental breakdown and 9/11.
Presentation, followed by questions, with media critic Barrie Zwicker. (1hr)

Journalist, author and documentary producer, Barrie Zwicker, interviews Annie Machon, a former MI5 officer and whistleblower.

Annie Machon worked and an MI5 counter-intelligence officer in...
F2 Branch - Investigating political activists (so called subversives).
T Branch - Irish terrorism and
G Branch - International terrorism.

She stands with several experts that believe there are serious problems in the official narrative of 9/11 that must be re-investigated.

Presented by the University of Waterloo 9/11 Research Group
Hagey Hall Humanities Theatre
May 31st, 2009


25 March 2009

Put People First - online and off

The NUJ is a partner in a new NGO mega-coalition called Put People First, which is coming together to lobby next week's G20 London Summit on the financial crisis. We want to see action to improve the accountability of world financial systems, and real efforts towards a green new deal, rebuilding the economy in a way that has the interests of all the world's people, and its climate, at heart.

NUJ members will be marching in Central London this Saturday - have a look at www.putpeoplefirst.org.uk for more info about the route, and the rally in Hyde Park after the march. Come and join us!

This demo also looks interesting from a new media angle too. The partners and the coalition seems to be jumping all over Twitter at the moment, as well as other social media tools. Posts using the hashtag #g20rally are being collated on the official site, and partner organisations are tweeting away - with a plan to generate retweets from followers. ActionAid have a guy in a cape @themegamouth prowling Central London all week with a megaphone, shouting out whatever he gets sent.

Most ambitious though is a plan to get live reportage from the crowd throughout the march and rally. If you're coming along (or even just watching it online), you can chip in with your own tweets, to help build a big picture of the event and people's concerns. Find the instructions from PPF here to help you get involved too.

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19 January 2009

How did Obama do it?

The USA has a new president, who's promised to bring change. His election campaign itself has already brought a major change to the way politicians use new media. For the first time ever, new media was central to campaigning and fundraising in a US presidential election campaign.

Want to know exactly what he did and how he did it? Thomas Gensemer, Managing Partner of Blue State Digital, the web contractor that gave Obama the online organising tools, can tell you all.

"Obama's (not so) Secret Weapon: the role of the internet in the 2008 US Presidential Election" – a lecture by Thomas Gensemer at City University is on Tuesday 17 February at 6:30.

It's free, but you need to book in advance. More details:

17 December 2008

Jacqui Smith wants PCSO 'chimps' to get arrest powers

Weren't Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) supposed to be there to help support ye old community? Surely not to bully filmmakers and photographers whenever they fancy. Rather disturbing that they and the regular police appear here to have no knowledge of the laws they are supposed to be upholding.

Big Brother Hates Being Filmed!


Maybe that's why they're known to many, including Brian Haw and the Parliament Square protesters, as CHIMPS: Cannot Help In Most Police Situations.

BBC: Home Secretary Jacqui Smith - PCSOs should get detention powers

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09 December 2008

The optimised journalist: How SEO is killing clever headlines

Many offline journalists writing for the Web are dismayed that the requirements of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) are killing the age-old craft of headline writing, claims Shane Richmond of telegraph.co.uk (for it is he) in a well argued piece for British Journalism Review.

They needn't worry, Richmond argues, as witty headlines were never an end in themselves, but rather just a journalistic tactic suited to the offline daily medium and the reader's relationship with the particular media brand they followed. As media and reader loyalties atomise, search-friendliness becomes a bigger part of how readers choose and consume their news and comment, and good journalists need to place equal value on skills that are relevant to the new environment.

Richmond takes The Sun's infamous "Gotcha!" headline from the Falklands war, and reworks it for new media to make this point. “Falklands conflict: Royal Navy sinks Argentinean warship” may not be memorable fifteen minutes on, let alone fifteen years on, but it will allow many more people to find and read the article. And that, rather than the demonstration of literary skill, is the reason the article exists in the first place.

As much as I value SEO (it brings a clear quarter of the traffic to one site I run), I'm still not sure I totally agree here. Sure, search plays a huge role in determining what gets read, and it's far better to see it as an opportunity rather than as a limitation, but the rise of social search may complicate the situation. A great turn of phrase at the head of an article can make a scene more vivid, or provide a useful metaphor for viewing the situation.

Powerful copy that affects readers deeply will have an advantage when it comes to being recommended, copied, commented. Those journalists who find a way to merge the disciplines may find the headlines of the future will be every bit as rewarding as the "gotchas" that got away.

Hat tip: I've Said Too Much

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22 September 2008

Beware geeks bearing gifts

Wikipedia - that wonderful journalistic timesaver. Suppose you've a dry football fixtures piece to knock out, and you need a spot of trivia to show your readers that you know a little more about Manchester City's UEFA Cup opponents, Cypriot club Omonia Nicosia, than they do.

Wikipedia fits the bill perfectly. I mean, where else can you find out in less than 30 seconds that their hardcore fans are known as "The Zany Ones", and that they wear hats made from shoes to illustrate that point?

Well nowhere really, because they aren't, and they don't. Or rather now they don't outside of the pages of the Daily Mirror. Ouch. And lesson number two is to have a working corrections email addy.

There but for the grace of Sub...


16 September 2008

Back to school with the NUJ - new media social event

Come and meet members of the NUJ working in New Media, talk about work issues, bring your colleagues (members of the union or not) and have a few drinks and some nibbles.

We'll also have someone from the NUJ's training department along to talk about the courses, both professional and trade union, the union will be running.

Date: Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Time: 7:00pm - 11:00pm
Location: Union Tavern, 52 Lloyd Baker Street, London

If you're on Facebook, RSVP at: http://www.new.facebook.com/event.php?eid=73416705787

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26 August 2008

Guardian reveals secret Home Office terror spin unit

Is there no limit to the co-option of our profession at public expense in the so-called War on Terror?

Revealed: Britain's secret propaganda war against al-Qaida

Home Office Research, Information and Communication Unit or (RICU)
BBC and website forums targeted by Home Office unit

..."The disclosure that a Whitehall counter-terrorism propaganda operation is promoting material to the BBC and other media will raise fresh concerns about official news management in a highly sensitive area."...

See also Robin Cook's last article for the Guardian before he died in mysterious circumstances.

The struggle against terrorism cannot be won by military means - The G8 must seize the opportunity to address the wider issues at the root of such atrocities - Friday July 8 2005
..."Bin Laden was, though, a product of a monumental miscalculation by western security agencies. Throughout the 80s he was armed by the CIA and funded by the Saudis to wage jihad against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. Al-Qaida, literally "the database", was originally the computer file of the thousands of mujahideen who were recruited and trained with help from the CIA to defeat the Russians. Inexplicably, and with disastrous consequences, it never appears to have occurred to Washington that once Russia was out of the way, Bin Laden's organisation would turn its attention to the west."...

08 August 2008

Information Clearing House Publisher Threatened

By Mike Whitney
The Truth Seeker / Flyby News

My friend Tom Feeley is in Big trouble. He runs the web site informationclearinghouse.info which updates "news you won't find in the corporate media" every day. The site is strongly anti-war.

Tom has gotten his share of death threats over the years, but what happened this week is a lot more serious.

Two days ago, Tom's wife found three well dressed men in their kitchen. The man who did all the talking, told Tom's wife (I won't give her name) that Tom must "Stop what he is doing on the Internet, NOW!" As crazy as it sounds, he pulled back his lapel and showed her a gun of some kind which she could not identify. Like I said, Tom has been threatened before, but nothing like this. 4 years ago, he was in a parking lot at Long's Drug store in Southern California and when he tried to open his door to get out, a man in a car next to him opened his door at precisely the same time which prevented Tom from getting out. Then, a 40-ish year old man got out of the passenger side of the vehicle and approached Tom saying, "You need to stop what you are doing on the web".

Tom said the man was overweight and had his shirt untucked. Tom was taken aback, but (after collecting himself said) "What the *? Who do you think you are telling me what I can do?"

The man answered, "Tom, I'm just giving you some good advice. You should take my advice, Tom."

This is all I know about the incident. Since, then, there have been occassional death threats, but nothing like what happened on Sunday. Tom's wife is hysterical and has not returned to the house since the incident. She contacted the FBI but the FBI said their was nothing they could do. Tom and his wife separated recently after a 30 year marraige, so he is publishing from a different location.

The well-dressed man told Tom's wife that he knew where her son lived, what line of work he was in, and how many children he had.

Last night, Tom's son and a friend cruised the neighborhood where his mother lives to see if anything strange was going on. They came across two men in a car a half-block from their mother's home using their laptops at roughly 12:30 AM. When Tom's son and friend approached them, the car sped off. Tom, does not know whether this is connected to his situation, but it is definitely suspicious.

I talked to Tom this morning and he is getting by, but he's clearly upset. I do not know his plans, but I know he is ditching his cell phone and (I assume) will have to go underground as much as possible. He plans to keep publishing.

I'll tell you this about Tom Feeley; he is no bullshitter. He is the "real deal" and completely committed to exposing the mob that is presently running our country. He does not understand why, (as he says) "They are reaching down SO far to get someone who just runs web site". But, the truth is, they are. Someone wants him to "shut up" and they apparently have the muscle to do it. He knows he is in danger.

I will probably only hear from Tom infrequently from this point on. But I will update information as I get it. Tom, knows some of the best writers on the Internet---many of them speak out regularly and forcefully on issues of civil liberties and war. Anything they can do to draw attention to Tom's situation will greatly improve his chances of getting through this ordeal safely. Beyond that, I have no idea of what can be done to help.

SOURCE: http://www.journalof911studies.com/

06 August 2008

One for the subs

Killthecliche.com is, as the name suggests, a site that aims to tackle lazy journalists' overuse of stock phrases and silly jargon. Under the slogan "more data = better media", it tracks RSS feeds from six newspapers, counting up the relative popularity of a range of clichés, and compiling league tables of cliché crime, and of those responsible.

Only focusing on the US media at the moment - phew!

17 July 2008

London New Media Social Event

All new media workers in London are invited to a social event next Thursday (24 July) in the Yorkshire Grey pub (upstairs), 46 Langham Street (anyone who was at the previous socials, this is not the same pub as before, it just has the same name).

Map: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&q=46+Langham+Street%2C+London%2C+United+Kingdom

Come along, bring a friend or two, and have a few drinks and some nibbles (paid for by the NUJ). This is not limited to NUJ members, non-members are welcome to come along and have a chat with colleagues and the union.

Pop in any time between 7 and 11 - and don't feel you have to stay all night, it's up to you.

If you're on Facebook, check it out here: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/event.php?eid=18359453348&ref=nf

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03 June 2008

NUJ DGS London hustings video

The four candidates for the post of NUJ Deputy General Secretary took part in a London hustings event on Thursday 29 May. You can watch a series of videos of the event on the London Central Branch website - http://nujlondoncentral.wordpress.com/ - as all four candidates give their views on issues facing journalism and their suitability for the job.

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29 May 2008

Look What's Happening To TV News

27 April 2008

ADM 2008 – New Media news

This year's ADM came wrapped up a year of controversy for the union. The debate over Israel raged for a few months after ADM 2006, but for the new media sector, it was the Drogheda debate that's most important. The debate (if you can call what was often an ugly spat a debate) centred around a deal at the Drogheda Independent in Ireland, which, amongst many other very positive issues, was the first time a newspaper chapel had agreed, in principle, to the possibility that print journalists might, at some point, take pictures.

But, let's come back to Drogheda later, because the biggest news for the new media sector came early in day one of ADM, right at the beginning of the second order paper on Finance and Recruitment. The New Media Industrial Council had proposed a motion to make recruitment in new media a priority with major investment in promotional materials and, most importantly, a mapping exercise to help branches find and identify potential members in the sector. The National Executive Council (NEC) submitted an amendment to broaden the motion and make recruitment a priority for all sectors of the union and, after a little bit of discussion to make sure the mapping exercise of the new media stayed in, it was passed overwhelmingly. So expect to see some results from that fairly soon.

But, back to Drogheda. Due to some overlong speeches, the planned running order of the conference got a bit messed up, but that ended up being for the best for the debate. The Drogheda debate, which had its own order paper, ended up coming before the general Wages, Payments and Conditions motions. As the latter included a motion on the Multimedia Commission Report, that could have become a debate on Drogheda. As it happened, though, there was a robust debate on the two main Drogheda motions themselves, leaving the WPC motions to mop up.

The first Drogheda motion was the more extreme one – calling for the resignation of the NEC's Emergency Committee (which would have led to chaos as the President, Vice-President and General Treasurer were all on the committee) and for the adoption a principle that all Chapel agreements be approved by a higher body. So much for Chapel power, eh? That motion was roundly defeated and so, thankfully, was the following motion, against which I spoke. That motion called for the return of a variation on the old point in the union's Working Practices about writers not normally taking photographs – a proposal I called regressive and out of touch with the reality faced by many of our members.

With those out of the way, the scene was set for Composite H, as it was called, which endorsed "Shaping the Future", the Multimedia Commission's report and planned the way forward – protecting quality journalism online through negotiation on pay, conditions, health and safety and training. All these are, of course, hugely important for our sector and, if you haven't read the document, you should do so, it's easily accessible on the NUJ website (under Activists). The Commission, which features three members of NMIC, Gary Herman, Jemima Kiss and yours truly, is to continue its work on an ongoing basis with elections at the next ADM.

On top of this endorsement was the adoption of a new principle, which added a positive statement to the rejection of the regressive motions about Drogheda. ADM agreed that the NEC should "ensure demarcation rules do not prevent members from seizing the opportunities available to them." In other words, the union's highest body has recognised that multimedia journalism is increasingly the norm in our industry and that we can't let old ideas of who does what stand in the way of our members engaging completely in a multimedia world. For our sector, where, of course, multimedia working is the norm and always has been, this is great news and it will hopefully aid in the recruitment the union has made its priority for the year.

There were a couple more bits and pieces of relevance to our sector, one long-running issue, in particular, took a step forward – that of online branches. For a few years now, European branches or the Continental European Council have brought a motion calling for the rules to allow for branches that exist online only to help branches with geographically disparate members. Each time, it's been knocked back after a long (and sometimes humorous debate), despite regular support from NMIC. This year, though, the movers rejected a call for the issue to be remitted for consideration by the Structure Review and there was a debate. This year, though, the vote was won and the NEC is now obligated to bring a motion calling for a change in the rules to next year's ADM.

Finally, there's the question of the online future of The Journalist magazine. The NEC had put forward a couple of specific issues about the Journalist, such as restricting the number of print editions, but ADM voted instead for a review of the magazine and its relationship to the Campaigns and Communications office and rejected a number of the specific recommendations. So, that's one to watch over the next few months.

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24 April 2008

Dear Mr Rusbridger

This is really old now, but such a good one I thought we needed to share it. Broadsheets are still serving up intros to the world of blogging, and this is a very nice little backatcha: ThisIsThis' Meet the Newspaperers.
"For those of you who don’t already know, newspapers make up a significant portion of topical written content in the UK and are fast becoming a vital part of the newsgathering process."

23 February 2008

Trouble in the Wikisphere

A Whistleblowers' publishing site was closed down last week after legal action in the US by Swiss bankers Julius Baer. But Wikileaks.org had been publishing evidence of alleged money laundering and tax evasion at the Bank.
The decision to close the site has brought the web freedom campaigners out in force.

Swiss Bank's attempt to hide money laundering backfires

Cringely Looks at the WikiLeaks Debacle

To Stop a Leak - Did Bank Julius Baer overstep when it demanded an entire Web site be disabled for hosting a handful of documents?

07 February 2008

Convergence - the final frontier

To the Emirates stadium today for a government think-tank session on digital convergence. Today's - rather grandly titled "What is Convergence?" - is the first in a series of events where Whitehall will apparently attempt to piece together some sort of coherent government overview on the mysterious future of the digital world.

Many of the great and the good from the media, hi-tech industry and academia were in attendance, with representatives from the Beeb, ITV, Orange, AOL, Five, Channel 4, the CBI, Guardian, Newspaper Society, Sky, O2...etc

Andy Burnham MP, the recently appointed Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport kicked off proceedings with the usual Nu-Labour speak about the importance of "open markets", diversity and putting consumers in charge etc. According to Mr Burnham, it was important that the think tank wasn't just seen as "insiders talking to insiders" and stressed the importance of including young people in the debate.

A surreptitious glance round the room confirmed there was no-one there under the age of 30, so quite where the input of the "born digital" generation will come from is anybody’s guess, a point picked up by the platform.

Oh, and the findings of the think tank "might or might not" form part of new legislation...my guess is that it probably wont unless Murdoch wants some more favours.

First up in the panel session was the chief executive of Ofcom Ed Richards. He felt that the changes brought about by convergence will bring "disruption" - not only to the media industry but to consumers as the wider media tries to adapt to the digital future. Of course, most NUJ reps would argue that this has been going on across the media for years already, with many hard-working journalists trying to make the best of hair-brained and ill-thought-through schemes to move into the online world drawn up by starry-eyed bosses who don't fully understand the technology...

BBC Director General Mark Thompson spoke about the success of the new iplayer application, with more than two million users since the launch on Christmas Day 2007. However, while evangelising about the brave new world, Thompson also defended radio broadcasting as being central to BBC output and also stressed the need for "outstanding content" as central to digital delivery...

Neil Berkett from Virgin Media told the group that, last Sunday, his broadband customers had downloaded the equivalent of 313 million MP3 tracks in data. Sunday is apparently the busiest day for downloads. (Thus confirming that most UK broadband users are now finally learning to switch off Last of the Summer Wine and instead go on You Tube to rerun that video of Star Wars Kid...)

Marc Overton of Orange moaned about how relatively cheap fixed term broadband was for consumers in comparison to the actual cost of providing the service and support. Damn us savvy customers for going for the cheapest deals! Presumably Orange will either be upping their prices or pulling out of the broadband market. It could be the latter - as Marc predicted that, at an indeterminate point in the future, there would only be three broadband providers for the UK - most likely BT, Virgin and Sky...

He also, rather depressingly, spoke about the popularity of the "Buff or Rough" feature on the Orange website as being one of their most popular developments. (Maybe they hadn't been around during the height of the "Am I Hot Or Not" craze all those years ago...)

The most lucid contribution of the day came from Nick Bertolotti - Investment Fund Managing Director from Credit Suisse. He effectively said what we had all suspected - that the city was "scared of convergence" and that the UK was already "behind the curve". Brands were less important in the online sphere and the established large media companies were under threat from smaller companies, therefore threatening investment etc.

His advice to the media bosses? "Build up the brand. Build up the content side." Ironic that it should be the most overt profiteer on the platform that comes out with what the NUJ has been saying for years about media companies investing in good quality content...

The best contribution of the day came from the floor - Jackie Devereux of the Community Media Association. She picked up on the theme that had come from the platform all morning - that the "individual" was key to the convergence debate. She challenged the notion that the "born digital" generation (anyone under 23) would forevermore be locked away alone in darkened rooms in front of a screen addicted to the net, noting that peoples priorities change as they get older and we don't all stay aged 16 for ever. Amen.

She also pointed out that just because we could now individualise our media consumption, this would not alter the fact that families would sit down and watch a TV show together...a refreshing antidote to the prevalent idea of the day that we would all become anti-social slaves to our handheld devices in years to come.

Finally exposing the elephant that had sat conspicuously in the corner all morning, Devereux made the most valid point of the day that the digital divide is still huge, with almost 50% of children at some inner city schools not having access to a computer at home, along with the scant availability of quality broadband services in poor areas...one for the powers that be to ponder as they attempt to make sense of the rapidly changing digital environment.

I managed to make the NUJ positions during the "break out" discussion group about the very real dangers facing existing media, particularly for local paper staff and freelances, because of the rush online and the need to train all journalists to work across platforms. I also banged the drum for quality content - and the need for all online news content to be managed and produced by experienced and trained professionals. Whether or not these points are taken into the "final cut", remains to be seen.

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